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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

The delightful reunion of the Griffoni Polyptych - Palazzo Fava, Bologna

As Italy goes into lockdown for the second time, the doors of the museums close again. And so we enter another month (?) of art starvation. Sigh.

Luckily, last week I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Palazzo Fava exhibition, which traces the history of the Griffoni Polyptych, a 15th century masterpiece with a rather troubled history. This magnificent polyptych is a collaboration between two greats of the Ferrarese school, Francesco del Cossa and his talented pupil Ercole de Roberti. The work was commissioned c. 1470-1473 by nobleman Floriano Griffoni for his chapel in the great Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, but was later divided and sold off as individual paintings. Shock horror.

The uniqueness and complexity of this polyptych point in the direction of a new canon, paving the road to a more modern and dynamic use of space and volumes. San Florian is literally in the process of emerging from his golden background to step over the parapet, defying the separation between the sacred and the secular. With its attention to detail and anatomical precision, the pala oozes an expressive realism that was groundbreaking at the time.

The exhibition is extraordinary in that it brings together the 16 parts of the polyptych that still exist after almost 300 years (where are the other ones, I wonder), thanks to loans from some of the most prestigious global museums like the National Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Pinacoteca di Brera, the Louvre and the Vatican Museums. Alas, the pieces will return to the lending institutions when the exhibition closes in January. As an added bonus, Palazzo Fava is also the home of beautiful Carracci frescoes.

#renaissance #italianrenaissance #altarpiece #painting #palazzofava #geniusbononiae #bologna #artblog #beyondthecanvasblog

Francesco del Cossa

Saint Lucy (c.1473-1474)

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Francesco del Cossa

Saint Florian (c.1473-1474)

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Francesco del Cossa

Saint Peter (c.1473-1474)

Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Ercole de' Roberti


Collezione Cagnola, Gazzada

Ercole de Roberti

A detail of the predella.

A reconstruction of the original polyptych.

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